Lately I have been obsessed with coconut. I think it’s because Halloween is around the corner and I am anticipating mounds of Mounds and Almond Joy’s. I’ve been using coconut milk in curries and rice, coconut oil instead of butter, and shredded coconut instead of bread crumbs for various bakes fishes. It has always been a favorite flavor, probably because my mother hated it, so I was deprived as a child.
On a recent trip to the Yucatan I went a little nutty as I searched unsuccessfully for some good, hand-made coconut ice cream. This is a treat I look forward to when traveling south of the border. Usually it is dense like gelato with an intense coconut flavor. Alas, throughout Mayaland I had zero luck. In fact in Playa del Carmen, the only ice cream shop was a Häagen-Dazs. It was very frustrating.
I have only been able to reproduce the extra coco-nutty flavor at home with a combination of extract and real coconut, either fresh grated or pre-shredded unsweetened. Neither ingredient does the job on its own. It is a fair approximation to sooth my cocnut-lust.
3-4 cups of ice
3 cups half-and-half
1 (15 oz.) can coconut milk
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups coconut, unsweetened shredded, or fresh grated
2 TB. coconut extract
1 tsp. kosher salt
1. Fill a large bowl with ice, and set another large bowl on top of the ice. Have a strainer nearby. Set all this aside, but nearby, until custard is cooked.
2. Bring the half-and-half and coconut milk to a boil in a large saucepan. In a small bowl whisk together sugar and egg yolks. At the boil temper 1/2 cup of hot half-and-half into the yolks and whisk quickly to combine. Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and over high heat whisk immediately and vigorously until the mixture begins to resemble thick cream, about 2 minutes. Strain immediately into the bowl sitting on ice. Stir periodically until cool.
3. Meanwhile, toast shredded coconut. Spread it in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 350˚F oven, stirring every 5 minutes until the color is dark brown and even, about 20 minutes. Add hot coconut to the cooling custard, stir, and steep until cool.
4. When the custard is completely cool, strain out the shredded coconut and squeeze out every last bit of coco-nutty custard. Stir in the extract and salt, then run through an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Pack the ice cream for several hours for firm scoops.
Serve topped with more toasted coconut and Cajeta, a Mexican caramel made of caramelized goats milk. So good!